When opportunity comes knocking in life, one must grab it with both hands. There could probably not be a better phrase to describe the fortunes of the young English pacer, Jofra Archer. Making the most of an opportunity is one thing, but turning it into a series of consistent eye-catching performances? Well, that suggests you are made for greater things.
The Barbados-born Englishman has been turning heads even before he joined the Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2018. There was plenty of talk about Jofra’s pace, accuracy and swing before he came to the IPL. He had built quite a reputation for himself in England, where he plies his trade for Sussex. He also played for the Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash league in Australia where he notched up 17 wickets in 13 games. This man was destined for big things in cricket from the outset.
In 2018, Jofra was bought by Rajasthan Royals and made his debut against Mumbai Indians. It was during this game that Indian cricket fans learnt of the young Jofra’s potential. He bowled four overs, conceded just 22 runs and took 3 crucial wickets. Jofra claimed his maiden IPL wicket by dismissing Krunal Pandya. It was a knuckleball that did the business and resulted in Krunal Pandya being caught at deep mid-wicket. Jofra’s next victim was Hardik Pandya, who was beaten by a 145 kmph ball that clattered off the pads and onto the stumps. His final scalp, Mitchell McClenaghan, barely got his bat down to a scorching 149.2 kmph delivery which swung in and hit the stumps. Archer picked up all his 3 wickets in the 19th over of the Mumbai innings, which had a monumental impact on how things transpired in the game. Having missed the first four games of the season through injury, Archer went on to have a good overall campaign as he picked up 15 wickets.
Archer was impressive for the Royals in the 2019 campaign as well. His best outing came against Kings XI Punjab in Mohali. He first got the better of the dangerous Chris Gayle. A steaming delivery from Archer found Gayle’s edge through to the keeper, resulting in his dismissal. Archer then bowled magnificently in the penultimate over as he picked up two more wickets, those of Nicholas Pooran and Mandeep Singh. He ended with figures of 3/15 in the match.
Archer also displayed some of his batting prowess in the game against Kolkata Knight Riders. At the business end of the game, the Royals needed 46 runs off the final 4 overs to claim a much important victory. With prodigy kid; Riyan Parag and Jofra Archer at the crease, the Royals knew victory was within sight. The first ball of Sunil Narine’s final over was hammered away for a six by Archer. Things got even more nerve-racking as the Royals required 9 runs off the final over.
However, Archer was on a mission to win the game for the Royals. He swung at a Prasidh Krishna delivery that got a thick outside edge and the ball flew to the third man fence. He made better contact with the next delivery which saw the ball sail dangerously towards the deep extra cover region. Fortunately, the ball dropped away from the fielder and beyond the ropes to give Rajasthan Royals a hard-fought victory. This was Archer’s final game of the season, as he had to depart for his maiden assignment with the English national team.
Jofra had a commendable season in all aspects and was hopeful of getting a call up for the World Cup too.
The World Cup in any sport is as big a stage as they come. Many young cricketers dream about it but only for a few does this dream materialise. 2019 proved to be that unforgettable year for Jofra as he got his World Cup call up in May. Initially, he was left out of the preliminary squad but made his England debut in 3 limited over games against Ireland and Pakistan. Jofra was delighted and recounted the moment- “I got a call from Ed Smith yesterday, about 6pm or so. I was driving at the time and I felt the phone vibrate, I answered without looking and he introduced himself. It was really, really exciting to be a part of big summer for English cricket”.
The ease with which Jofra blended into the exciting English World Cup team was representative of the strong camaraderie and spirit in the team. England were the hosts and surely were looking at capturing cricket’s most coveted prize.
In the opening match against South Africa, Jofra took the top and middle order apart with a flaming spell. He was the chief inflictor to South Africa’s woes as he dismissed Faf du Plessis and Aiden Makaram in quick succession. Not to forget he bowled a vicious bouncer that struck Proteas legend; Hashim Amla on the helmet. Amla had to leave the field and only returned much later. Van der Dussen was the next to go, as Jofra sent him back to the stands in his second spell. Jofra was absolutely clinical as he ended with figures of 3/27. How does one repeatedly deliver cracking debuts after debuts? Well we might have to ask the man himself, for a few pointers.
Jofra followed this up with several impressive performances as he managed four 3-fers across the tournament. However, that one ultimate defining moment came for Jofra in the very final itself. The game went down to the last micro-millimeter of a wire. Jofra had to bowl the all-important Super Over to help England over the line against a relentless Kiwi side. It was Archer against Guptill and Neesham. In what was a smash and grab moment in the game.
After bowling a tough over, starting with a wide and being hit by Neesham for a maximum, Archer got back to his usual self. Coming down to the absolute final two balls of the super over, New Zealand needed just 2 more. After a round of intense discussions, Jofra ran in and bowled the all-important, decisive and final ball that decided the World Cup. Jofra’s delivery was full on Guptill’s pads. Guptill managed to tuck it away to deep mid-wicket, where Jason Roy made ground quickly to collect it cleanly. He threw it to Buttler who was waiting a foot away from the stumps. The rest is just history, as Jos broke the stumps to win the World Cup for England. Jofra started his maiden World Cup in style and finished it off with an unbelievable degree of conviction.
What comes second on your bucket list as a young cricketer after winning the World Cup? It has to definitely be the chance to play for your country in a Test match.
Jofra missed the opening Test due to injury and it was evident that England missed him dearly. The Australians were dominant as they won the opening Test by a whopping 251 runs.
With Australia leading the series 1-0, the pressure was surely mounting on England to respond and keep their hopes alive in the Ashes. The thought of losing to your bitter rivals in your own backyard was surely an unbearable thought.
Archer, who was preparing by playing for Sussex’ second XI, claimed six wickes and even scored a century coming low down in the batting order. He was finally announced fit and ready to join the squad. He had a telling impact on day 3 as he picked up 2 crucial wickets. In what was a spectacle for the cricket faithful, Jofra faced off with his Rajasthan Royals skipper, Steve Smith. Smith survived a ruthless spell from Jofra and was retired hurt but did return. It was an enthralling contest!
On day 5, Jofra returned with renewed vigor in the second innings and picked up another 3 wickets. However, the weather eventually had a telling tale in the grand scheme of things, as the match on day 5 ended in a draw.
Having won the toss going into the all-important 3rd test match, a Smith=less Australia were halted in their tracks by the devastating Jofra Archer. He helped himself to his first ever 5-fer in Test cricket which eventually converted into a 6-wicket haul. Jofra stifled the Australian batsmen at every juncture and he claimed wickets of batsmen across the batting order. Australia were restricted to just 179 on day 1 in their first innings. What followed was a catastrophic meltdown of the English batting order as they were cleaned out for a mere 67 runs on day 2.
Staring down the barrel, the English surely needed somebody to step up and drag them back into the game. Archer was amongst the wickets again, as he and Stokes helped clear up the Australian tail-enders, seeing to it that Australia were restricted to a score of 246! With a target of 359 to chase, England were still in it. Eventually, it took a superhuman effort from another Royal, Ben Stokes, to carry England to a miraculous victory. Archer has 13 wickets to his name so far in the Ashes! His contribution is worth its weight in gold. England have an X-factor to their bowling attack.
Is it possible to script a more enchanting tale? Jofra is just 24 and has the world at his feet! What lies next? What does the pace prince have in store for us? We can only ramble away in our minds in anticipation. The Rajasthan Royals have a phenomenon among their ranks and there’s more to come from him!